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Guy Ligier, 1930-2015

24 Aug 2015

Former Formula One driver and team owner Guy Ligier has passed away at the age of 85.

The Frenchman's eponymous squad competed in F1 racing between 1976 and 1996, winning nine races, though Ligier himself exited the sport in 1992.

A champion rower and rugby player in his youth, Ligier had turned to motorsport in his late twenties, winning motorcycle titles in his native France before moving his attention to four wheels.

He'd eventually progress all the way to Formula One racing, competing in 12 Grands Prix between 1966 and 1967, scoring a best result of eighth in Germany in '67 (which became sixth when the F2 cars ahead of him were discounted).

But Ligier's F1 future lay in construction, not driving, and after establishing his fledgling squad as a sportscar manufacturer, the uncompromising Frenchman moved into F1 competition in 1976 having acquired the assets of the Matra team.

Equipe Ligier proved an almost instant hit, scoring their maiden podium in Belgium with Jacques Laffite in just their fifth race. The French racer then took the team's first pole in Italy, before winning their first Grand Prix in Sweden the following season.

Laffite would add to his victory tally over the next few years, with countrymen Patrick Depailler and Didier Pironi also triumphing for Guy Ligier, who had himself become one of the paddock's toughest and most familiar characters.

The team's final win came in 1996 when, with Ligier no longer at the helm, Olivier Panis broke a 15-year victory drought with a famous triumph on the streets of Monaco. 

The Ligier name would disappear from F1 racing for good at the end of that year, as four-time world champion Alain Prost acquired and re-branded the team, running it for a further five years before it was dissolved. Ligier himself, meanwhile, moved on to enjoy further success in the world of business.

Paying tribute to Ligier, Formula One group CEO (and former fellow team owner) Bernie Ecclestone commented: “I am terribly upset as I was very close to Guy throughout his time in Formula One. He was a proper person.”